I said "yes" ... to counseling!
I had a rich conversation last week with a young woman who I have known for years. We practically grew up together - went to the same church and the same private school. We followed each other on social media, but we had not connected for a long time. We spent hours on the phone talking about our shared experience as adult children of divorce.
I realized then that in the 10 years since my experience with divorce began, I had never had a conversation with anyone who might understand what I was going through ... ever. It was refreshing, comforting, and inspiring to listen to her and to share with her. We bonded over our pains, our current struggles, and our victories over the years since our parents' divorced.
Yes, there can absolutely be victories in the midst of horrible pain! (I had to pause here for a second to say this and we will come back to it.)
There were so many takeaways from the conversation, one of which being how integral counseling was in our healing. I took the long road to counseling. My first experience with it was in graduate school. In studying to become a counselor myself, my graduate program taught us that we could not be certified in something that we never experienced for ourselves. As an assignment, we had to go to counseling. I remember being nervous about it because I did not know what to expect. However, I enjoyed it and thought it was going to be a one-time thing.
Yes, check that off of the list. I can tell my students that I understand because I've been to counseling, too.
Little did I know that it would become more to me than what I could have ever imagined. By 2015, I was boiling over. I had been running for years from my own pain and my toxic behaviors and unchecked emotions were going wild. My mother encouraged me to go to counseling and figure out what I needed. She said that I was never going to find what I was looking for if I didn't start looking in the mirror. Shoutout to my mother for always telling me what I need to hear and guiding me in the right direction.
I simply went to Google to find a counselor. Psychology Today came up on my screen. I put in my city and zip code and allowed it to search. I prayed and asked the Lord to draw me to someone. I can't tell you why, but I landed on one in particular and reached out to her. She let me know that she had an opening and we scheduled my appointment. November 2015 was my first session with her.
Here I am, almost 6 years later, and I'm still going to a counselor, the same one I went to on that cold day in 2015. It has been the hardest and most rewarding journey. I went into counseling wanting to address the events that had transpired over the years. I thought that was all I was going to be doing. I found out quickly that I would also need to address the destructive core values that had been the force behind choices that I had made and patterns that I had developed. I truly felt like an onion that was being peeled, layer by layer. I felt ashamed, exposed, vulnerable, and wounded. Most of all, though, I felt like a human being.
There were sessions that left me rocked for days. I would ugly cry or sit in silence or a combination of both as I came to many self realizations. I had to admit that I played the victim role for too long. I had to acknowledge that I played a role in some of why I was treated improperly by others. At the root of it, I learned that I had treated myself improperly, too. I had to acknowledge that my father was not going to come back and that my family would never be the same. The truth was not always pretty, but it always brought freedom.
I felt like weights were coming off of me, one session at a time. It has been some of the hardest work that I have ever done. I look back and think about how I thought that so much of the work would center around my parents' divorce. I thought that was all I was going to talk about in counseling. I was struggling so much with how the man who watched me grow in my mother's belly, saw me be born, and watch me grow into a woman could walk out on me, seemingly without a second thought. However, I learned that the family situation was only the catalyst for the deeper work that needed to be done. The work that I could only do.
I am a work in progress. I am not finished working on myself. Something has started in me and I want to see it through. Saying yes to counseling has done infinite wonders in my healing journey. Learning to set boundaries, to take care of myself instead of only taking care of others, to take control of my own life through my choices, to see myself as God sees me, to forgive myself and others, to show myself grace, to say no, to understand who I am and who I am not (and what I like and what I do not like), to advocate for myself, and to accept what I cannot control are a few of a plethora of things that I have walked away with while in counseling.
Saying yes to counseling has improved the quality of my life.
This is a true statement that I stand by. As I move toward marriage, I can say for sure that doing the work for myself has been crucial in my relationship. I will not say that I was preparing for marriage by going to counseling, but, instead, I will say that going to counseling has certainly prepared me for marriage. While I am not wound free to say the least, I am certainly healing tremendously. I am not sure what I would be like in a relationship if I had not done work and if I was not continuing to do work. The counseling has not stopped since I've gotten better about things or since I met someone. Instead, I cling to it more because I realize that I'm going into new territory.
If you are hurting or a slave to your own behaviors (I was both of those things and more), I encourage you to say yes to counseling. I understand that it is an investment and please know there are many counselors who will find a way to work with you. Your mental health, personal growth, and healing are crucial, essential, and the primary concern. If you need resources, start with Psychology Today (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us) just like I did. Just know that I'm with you and I want the best for you. The best for you may include doing some difficult work, but I promise you the rewards are endless.
As we wrapped our conversation about our respective experiences, we both landed on the same conclusion. Counseling was the bright spot for us. I am not sure if I would have gone to counseling had my parents' divorce not happened. I am so thankful that I did go. This situation has taught me that there is always light in the darkness. Good things do come out of horrendous things. If you're in the middle of a horrendous thing, just know that good is coming. It's likely already there, but the horrendous often overshadows the light that is fighting to creep into the darkness that is going on in your life. Just hold on, friend. Keep going and keep fighting. Do not stop until you see the light. Reach out for the help that you may need and say yes to the first step on your own journey for healing.
You are not alone. Ever.
Take good care of yourselves, friends,